Tau Deposition Patterns in Retired NFL Football Players

May 15, 2019

How are you counseling patients and families about the risks and benefits of playing sports with repetitive head blows and the risk of CTE?

A prospective study compared 26 former NFL players with cognitive and neuropsychiatric symptoms with 31 controls looking at tau deposition with positron emission tomography.1

Why? Because the neuropatholical diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) from repetitive head impacts is based on a specific pattern of tau deposition with minimal amyloid deposition, which distinguishes it from other disorders like Alzheimer disease.

Findings

Tau deposition was higher in former players compared with controls in three regions:

• Bilateral superior frontal

• Bilateral medial temporal

• And left parietal

Participants did not have elevated amyloid beta levels and there was no association between tau and scores on cognitive or neuropsychiatric tests.

The study is a small cohort and more research is needed, but how are you counseling patients and families about the risks and benefits of playing sports with repetitive head blows and the risk of CTE?

Reference

1. Stern RA, Adler CH, Chen K, et al. Tau Positron-Emission Tomography in Former National Football League Players. N Engl J Med. 2019;380):1716-1725.